slum magazine

“Our dreams are a second life.” ~Gerard de Nerval

The Second Life Experience: Why Size Matters

By Cat Boccaccio.


I frequent a popular blues club and like to watch the parade of avatars: tall, thin, stocky, plump, natural, strange, sexy, playful. And as more and more avatars dial back on their height and proportions, as espoused by Penny Patton in her blog, I see a greater gap in heights than ever before. The man who never got the memo and is still well over 7’, dances with an SL woman (say, like me, under 6’) and her legs dangle unceremoniously, a foot off the floor. My own height in Second Life is usually about 5’ 9” or so and I feel dwarfed in almost any environment I enter in Second Life.

What difference does it make? Why can’t we be whatever size we damn well please?

Of course you can be any shape you want in SL. There are fairies and feys, hobbits and giants and more, all happily role playing in imaginative sims. There are also small avis, petites and dolls. There are tinies, furries, nekos. We all seem to live and let live, and yay for diversity!

When I list the possibilities, the human avatar starts to sound downright boring. But those are the avatars that I’m referring to – the majority of people in Second Life who wander, work and play in this world in the guise of a virtual human being.

For unknown reasons, Linden Lab starts us off very tall, with the default avatars for men at over 7’ and for women at over 6’. But as Ms Patton points out, there are issues with larger avatars that negatively affect our second lives.

For example, large avatars obviously require more space and land than smaller ones, and larger builds use more prims, leaving creators less to work with. The larger a mesh object is, the greater the Land Impact. I am all for the capacity to build a greater number of more detailed structures on the same land that once needed over-scaled buildings to accommodate over-scaled avatars.

Size matters… and also shape.

It’s also much more difficult to proportion large avatars… for a specific example, look at how many tall men have T-rex length arms. It’s almost impossible to create an aesthetically pleasing, natural-looking large male avatar. I am often asked why I don’t exhibit more photographs of males– this is a main reason. When I photograph women, I always use shorter, scaled down shapes, because it is so much easier to create natural-looking avatars for photographs.

Linden Lab has changed but not improved the Second Life starter avatar, or the tools to adjust it. Until they do, we can all start to scale our avatars down ourselves, with the ultimate goal of improving our Second world, and simply making our SL selves more naturally proportioned and pleasing (and if normal and pleasing are not your goals, consider that you would definitely stand out in a world of attractive avatars).

I recently got the Penny Patton Vitruvian shapes, available for free on Marketplace or in her shop. These are based on DaVinci’s Vitruvian Man, with the idea that a properly scaled and proportioned avatar is a good base on which to create your own custom shape.

shapes comparison

The “Athletic Woman” shape is at left. I made very minor tweaks in the Appearance Editor to get the center version, with narrower shoulders, slightly wider hips and less muscle, and I also made the head just a little bit smaller. At right is a more common sight in Second Life, the taller, stretched-out model of the avatar. Note especially the too-short arms. If the shape is made taller, you need to adjust the arm length, leg length and so on, to get a natural look.

So I tried out Penny’s 5’7” “Athletic Woman”, with the results shown above. Included in the set are Female Average, Athletic, Amazon, Dwarf, African and Japanese, and Male Average, Athletic, Dwarf, Commando and Roman. Of course they are fully modifiable. Also included is an ACCURATE height detector, since the height shown in the appearance editor is a good 6″ shorter than the actual avatar height, and most height detectors in SL are similarly flawed.

The wave of people supporting the idea of smaller avatars is swelling. Penny Patton’s human shapes (or even one of mine) are a great place to start. Wear your non-giant avatar proudly, and spread the word. Soon all the men, and the women, will “get the memo”, and we’ll be on the road to a richer Second Life.

More about size and scale from Penny Patton:
A Matter of Proportion
A Critical Look at Second Life

For slum magazine.


About slummagazine

slum magazine is about all things Second Life: art, music, news, reviews, shopping, love and life.

11 comments on “The Second Life Experience: Why Size Matters

  1. Jo Yardley
    March 10, 2013

    Hear hear!
    I’ve been building my sim (1920s Berlin) in semi realistic scale for years, at first it felt like everyone visiting was a giant but more and more people appear to be more realistic.
    And thanks to the RL scale it has been easier for me to make exact copies of RL buildings and objects (just use the original blueprints and dimensions) and I’ve managed to put more into one region then I could have if we used the fantasy scale.


    • slummagazine
      March 10, 2013

      I visited 1920’s Berlin last night (had a dance or two at the cabaret) and it is a gorgeous build. We have all become so accustomed to football field sized rooms and massively high ceilings to accommodate our height and our camera angle (which Penny Parton also discusses on her blog). The Berlin sim has a realism you don’t find much in SL… interesting that you can use RL scale to build, too.


  2. Kelly K
    March 10, 2013

    I agree 100% here, imam be showin that marketplace page off to some friends 😀 I am a 5’9″ male in SL, and I feel like im a midget walking into some stores, let alone standing near other people 😮


    • slummagazine
      March 10, 2013

      Hi Kelly… I said in the above article that I am about 5’9″ in SL but when I used an accurate height detector I found I was over 6′ tall. Now I’m scaling down AGAIN! and also making my retail shapes a realistic size. I know what you mean about feeling like a midget!


  3. Kelly K
    March 10, 2013

    Reblogged this on Kelly K's Mindleaks and commented:
    I agree with this 100%


  4. Pingback: Size Matters Part 2: Shaping Up and Shaping Down | slum magazine

  5. Mera
    April 1, 2013

    Agree! 🙂


  6. Pingback: It’s Rigged! – My Love-Hate Relationship with Mesh Fashion | slum magazine

  7. Rudy
    April 15, 2013

    Well, yeah. It’s ridiculous. And the bulging thighs!


  8. Pingback: Willkommen, Bienvenue, Welcome… to 1920s Berlin Celebration | slum magazine

  9. Pingback: [SL10B] slum magazine Writers Then and Now! | slum magazine

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s


Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 237 other followers

%d bloggers like this: